May 28, 2014

Let's Celebrate Shavuot!

Shavuot celebrated the day God gave the Torah to the Jewish people at Mount Sinai. In Israel, it is also connected to the season of the grain harvest. Today, the Shavuot celebration is made unique by the traditional consumption of dairy products like milk, cheese, and, of course, lots of cheesecake! Below we've collected some activities to teach children about Shavuot:

Mount Sinai Muffins
Teach children about Mount Sinai with this fun and edible craft! Make this easy by purchasing muffins and decorating them together, or go all out and bake them from scratch. Either way, this activity is sure to delight kids. This can also be made as a cake for a table centerpiece and family dessert! From Kveller.

Build Mount Sinai
If muffins won't work for your home or classroom, children can still build their own Mount Sinai using a paper or Styrofoam bowl, some paint, and colorful paper! You can also recreate the scene of Moses coming down from Mount Sinai with just paper, crayons, and glue! From Bright Hub Education and Joyful Jewish.

Shavuot Flower Crowns
These beautiful flower crowns made from construction paper are great for the classroom or at home. Engage children in describing Mount Sinai, which was covered in beautiful flowers, while they make a colorful way to celebrate! From Hebrew Podcasts.

Tablets of Stone
Teach children about the Ten Commandments by making their own tablets of stone! Great for at home or in the classroom, this also reinforces counting and the Hebrew alphabet. From Joyful Jewish.

Shavuot Word Pomegranate
An activity to engage the entire classroom or family at once, this simple activity asks participants to come up with words and phrases associated with Shavuot to fill out an illustration of a pomegranate. A great way to create a visual reminder for all year 'round. From Hebrew Podcasts.

Printable Activity Book
This activity packet is great for younger children. In addition to teaching them about Shavuot and the Ten Commandments, it reinforces important skills like counting. Particularly useful for the classroom! From Jewish Homeschool.

Teach Shavuot Values
Kveller has some excellent ideas for teaching young children the important values of charity, loyalty, and kindness. Tell the story of the Book of Ruth to introduce these values, and reinforce them with these simple everyday reminders.

Test Your Knowledge!
If children have access to a computer at home or at school, they can test their knowledge of the Book of Ruth and the Shavuot story with a variety of quizzes and word matches online! Create a family or class challenge to see who can score the highest, or encourage children to improve on their own scores. From A Kid's Heart.

And, of course, read a good book! Kar-Ben has many unique and engaging books about Shavuot, from ones featuring Sammy Spider, to a photo story of children in Israel growing and harvesting their own wheat and making a cheesecake, to the story of little Mount Sinai. Find these Shavuot books and more on the Kar-Ben website!

May 14, 2014

Learn About Lag Ba'Omer with Books and Activities!

Lag Ba'Omer is an interesting and unique Jewish holiday that gives us an opportunity to step outside (literally!) and celebrate with bonfires, singing, picnics, and more. Lag Ba'Omer celebrates Rabbi Shimon bar Yochi, a sage and leading disciple of Rabbi Akiva, and the great wisdom he brought into the world.

Interested in learning more about Lag Ba'Omer? Check out Sadie's Lag Ba'Omer Mystery, the fifth book in the Sadie and Ori series by Adventure Rabbi Jamie Korngold. View the book trailer here, or get the book on the Kar-Ben website!

Below we've included activities for teaching children about Lag Ba'Omer and celebrating at home with family or at school.

Build a Bonfire!
One of the most well-known traditions on Lag Ba'Omer is the building of a bonfire. These bonfires symbolize spiritual light and the impact of Rabbi Shimon's teachings.Whatever the size, a campfire or bonfire is a great way to bring family together for the holiday, and provides a great place for singing songs and making s'mores.

Bake a Bonfire Cake (or Cupcakes)
These cute cupcakes use red and orange icing and pretzel sticks to create the illusion of a bonfire. This is a fun craft for kids with some help from parents - they'll need help with the baking, but they can ice the cupcakes themselves. If you're looking to go bigger, you can create a bonfire cake instead!

Build a Diorama
Teach the story of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochi with an interactive diorama. Collecting materials for the diorama will get children outside, and after you put the diorama together you can use it to tell the story of Lag Ba'Omer together. Here's an example from Jewish Homeschool.

Paint a Watercolor
Many holidays have beautiful images or items associated with them, such as the shofar for Rosh Hashanah and the menorah for Hanukkah. These symbols help make holidays more meaningful by reminding us of past celebrations. Create a reminder of your Lag Ba'Omer celebration by painting a watercolor like these at Creative Jewish Mom.

Build a Popsicle Stick Bow
These easy-to-make bows (don't worry, they're not functional!) are a great craft for engaging children in Lag Ba'Omer. Children playing outside with mock bows and arrows is a Lag Ba'Omer tradition, arising from the belief that no rainbows were seen during Rabbi Shimon's lifetime because his good made up for all the bad in the world. From Creative Jewish Mom.

Or Just the Arrows!
If you don't want to bother with bows, these decorative arrows made out of skewers are a fun and lovely craft as well. Find the directions at Creative Jewish Mom.

Learn and Craft with this Activity Booklet
This free activity book from Jewish Homeschool teaches the stories of Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Shimon, along with pictures for coloring and simple activities to reinforce the most important parts of the story.

Plan a School Field Day
If you want to get ambitious, you can plan a school or classroom field day. Lag Ba'Omer falls toward the end of the school year, so this is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate spring and the anticipation of summer while also teaching about a holiday. Check out the Pre-School at Temple Emanuel's outline for a simple and collaborative day.

Pack a Picnic
If you don't have a space for a campfire or bonfire, pack a picnic instead and enjoy the outdoors. It is said that Rabbi Shimon and his son lived in a cave for twelve years, hiding from the Romans, and during this time they were nourished by a carob tree that grew at the cave's entrance. Celebrate the gifts of nature by spending the day outside. You can pick up a nature guide to learn more about the local vegetation and the different roles that plants play in our environment.

May 5, 2014

Israel at Home and in the Classroom

Yom Ha'atzma'ut is Israel's Independence Day. On May 14, 1948, or, on the Jewish calendar, the 5th of Iyar in 5708, David Ben Gurion declared the establishment of the state of Israel. From that day on, the 5th of Iyar became a national holiday. Today, Yom Ha'atzma'ut is celebrated by Jewish people around the world. Israel gives the Jewish people

Some activities are perfect for Yom Ha'atzma'ut. Others are ideal for homes or classrooms that want to deepen children's connection to and love of Israel all year round.

Create a Mizrach
In many Jewish homes, a mizrach hangs on the easternmost wall as a reminder of Israel and the direction in which it lies. This is a wonderful visual for children that encourages them to think about Israel year-round. In this fun and colorful craft, children can create their own mizrach for their home (or classroom) using glue and colorful sand. Click here for directions.

From the Jewish National Fund.

Make Israeli Flag T-Shirts
Using plain white shirts, fabric paint, and cut-out sponges, children can make their very own Israeli flag shirts to wear for Yom Ha'atzma'ut festivities or on any other day of the year! Click here for directions.


Decorate with an Israeli Wind Sock
This is a fun twist on making an Israeli flag. This page also has a number of other interesting activities for Yom Ha'atzma'ut, including making an Israeli lantern. Click here for directions.

From Hebrew Podcasts.

Snacks in Blue and White!
Celebrate Israel with a selection of snacks that emulate the colors of the Israeli flag! Bake a vanilla cake and ice it with vanilla frosting and blueberries, keep it simple and healthy with vanilla yogurt and blueberries, or get creative and invent your own blue and white snacks!

Speaking of Snacks . . .
You can also prepare a selection of traditional Israeli snacks and foods, such as hummus, schnitzel, and falafel. Help children connect with Israel by engaging their sense of taste!

Blue and White Painted Planters
In the United States, Yom Ha'atzma'ut aligns with the beginning of spring. Celebrate these two events together, and create a lasting reminder of Israel, with these painted flowerpots. Click here for directions.


Israel, All Year Long
Some classrooms may prefer to incorporate Israel into their classroom all year long to really develop their students' understanding of and connection to the country. Some ideas include building your very own Western Wall using brown paper lunch sacks, teaching students the Israeli national anthem and other traditional Israeli songs as part of a song-a-week or song-a-month program, decorating your classroom with photos of Israel, and inviting special visitors to the classroom to share their experiences traveling or living in Israel.

And, of course, read a good book!
Explore the Holy Land with Kar-Ben! Travel around Israel while learning the importance of the land through these engaging books. The Kar-Ben website has an entire section dedicated to books about Israel - from books that show preschoolers celebrating Yom Ha'atzma'ut to Grover and his friends cleaning up a playground. Click here to see the full selection!

You can also see a special trailer for a new Fall 2014 book about a true event in the life of Golda Meir, Israel's first female Prime Minister! Goldie Takes a Stand: Golda Meir's First Crusade is available beginning June 1!